Sunday, October 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Candy Catches the Attention of a Suitor After a Traumatic Night on the Job in 'I See Money'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 1.04 "I See Money"

Rudy dangles a lucrative offer in front of Vincent. Longo uses strong-arm tactics to restore order among Bobby's unhappy construction workers. Candy attracts unwanted attention and is intrigued by a legitimate suitor. Paul questions his place at the Hi-Hat. Frankie hits a hot streak. Darlene gets a gift from Abby. Alston sees through Sandra. Bristling after a police shakedown, Vincent adds muscle in the person of Black Frankie, a Vietnam War vet.

The Deuce has done such a fantastic job in just showing a day in the life of these characters who were a part of this specific time and place. Yes, there is forward momentum with the main story. It does feel like things are building up to big, climatic moments that have the potential to affect all of these characters' lives in a profound way. But it's also just doing a solid job in living in the moments of these characters. It shows how they all intersect in interesting and complex ways. They are a part of the same environment where one's actions can have a huge effect on many others. The show is depicting this entire world and not just one subsection of it. It sets out to explore why this world was allowed to fester and grow. The characters are mystified by the complexity of sex workers and their pimps. They all understand sexuality and how it can be used to benefit multiple different business opportunities. But they don't try to understand the psyche of the other people who are a part of this world. No one truly knows what's going on with someone else. Sandra is setting out to write a story about prostitution and the manipulative dynamic with pimps. She forms a bond with Alston which could be beneficial. But even that story may not dig deep enough in the complexity of this situation. The show is attempting to do that on a whole as well. It lives in this dark and depressing world. These characters live within this worldview. But they are still humans as well who can feel horrifying emotions as soon as something even more tragic and sinister happens in their lives.

Candy really is becoming one of the more tragic characters of this story. The opening episodes have laid out why she is selling her body on the streets. She is trying to support her son despite her parents' objections to how she is doing that. She's working without a pimp in order to afford her dreams much quicker. It carries so much more risks to it. She's an enterprising woman who may see the future as it comes to the porn business. But she's still going out every night trying to make enough money to support her family. This appears to be the episode that truly sends her through the ringer. It gets off to an awkward start where she is constantly approached for sex at the movies. It's raining outside but that can't stop her. She needs to keep making money. But one patron startles her with what appears to be a mouse in his pocket. And then, another quickly approaches her even though she's just been violated in an uncomfortable way. It's how the world at large wanted to take away the humanity of this line of work. The men only see these women as a means to give them what they want. They don't see her as a woman who is capable of having good or bad days. He just wants a good deal for sex. He doesn't care what has just happened to Candy. He just hopes that it doesn't interfere with her ability to give him what he wants.

Candy is used to men walking up to her with a sexual intent. It's the world she is common with. She's on the street where men can objectify her body. It's a business for her. She's just doing whatever she can do in order to stand out. She has her own way of protecting herself and her business interests. There's an artificial layer to all of this because she's working while wearing a blonde wig. And then, she is stopped as Eileen when she is just shopping at a music store. This guy, Jake, isn't interested in paying her for her services. He's just trying to form a connection with a woman he is attracted to. It's a startling difference for her. She still gives out her number. But his subsequent message affects her in a different way. Usually, these messages on her answering machine are so impersonal. It's about the men worrying about what may or may not happen since they paid for sex. With Jake, it's a message Candy plays over and over again. With him, she is just Eileen. She can be herself again. She wants that even though she doesn't quite know how to be that person anymore. She's awkward on her date and the walk home afterwards. It still hits all the hallmarks of a first date gone well. They have a charming dynamic that ends with a kiss. But it's also a strange moment as well. She is so used to giving love to someone else but she doesn't quite know how to be intimate with someone once more. That's startling and is a very engaging tease for her story in the future.

But all of this also happens as things turn even more tragic for Candy in her profession. She leads yet another patron to the hotel room in order to get him off. But he dies while she is going down on him. It's not a particularly surprising twist given how difficult it is for him as he is walking up the stairs to the room. But it's so destructive to Candy in the moment. She is shocked by what has just happened. She's just doing her job. This is something that has never happened to her before. She is removed from her life almost. She's just walking without really realizing what she is doing. She tells people about the dead body. She tells a friend and her pimp about him. She goes downstairs and informs a police officer about what has happened. But this is absolutely brutal for her. She eventually winds up at Ruby's apartment just seeking comfort. She gets that but only through reminiscing about the past and a woman they used to know who died in this line of work. She gets a free drink from Vincent as well because he can tell she's had a rough day. And yet, the episode ends with Candy having earned a new nickname: the mouth of death. It's a joke amongst the pimps. They start applauding her for what she did. It's horrible for her. This was one of the most traumatizing experiences of her life. And they are treating it as one big joke. Even Vincent and the other people in the restaurant join in having no idea what's truly going on. She's isolated in this world with no one really wanting to understand what's going on with her.

Things aren't exactly going well for Vincent either. He's not having a run of good luck like Frankie is. Of course, he quickly puts an end to that with his brother because his debts need to be paid as soon as possible. He only got into this relationship with the mob because of Frankie. He needed to form a payment plan with them. He never wanted to be indebted to the mob. And now, he has formed this dynamic with Rudy. The two of them have grown to respect each other. Vincent only has his new bar, the Hi-Hat, because Rudy gave it to him. He owns his own bar without needing to be a part of any kind of criminal operation. He's not involved with that or wants to know what's going on in that regard. And yet, he helped Bobby set up his own operation with the mob. And now, it is going awry because his fellow construction workers are pushing back. They no longer like the arrangement. They create some noise just to be noticed. Vincent and Bobby don't see it as a big problem. But Vincent is also foolish enough to believe he can tell Rudy who seems to be the leader of this cause without any consequences whatsoever. He feared the mob for a reason but is also surprised by what happens later because of the information he gave out. But Vincent is also more concerned with the new pressure happening at the bar. It continues to run well while attracting a broad crowd. He wants this place to be welcoming to everyone. But a fight breaks out in the bar which a police officer uses as a way to get a payout in order to provide protection in the future. That sends Vincent on a path to getting a gun for the place in order to protect it himself. In turn, that leads him to a guy named Black Frankie who makes the suggestion that he needs a gunman instead of a gun. Again, it seems like a wise business strategy. Black Frankie and Big Mike are going to be the muscle for the bar. The operation is slowly coming together for Vincent. He wants this to continue being a success. Each week sees him dealing with some different problem while trying to pursue what he wants both professionally and personally. But the narrative is also highlighting how destructive his actions can be - to people both impersonal in the narrative (the construction worker) and of great importance (Candy).

Some more thoughts:
  • "I See Money" was directed by Alex Hall with story by George Pelecanos & Lisa Lutz and teleplay by Lisa Lutz.
  • Vincent continues to be derelict in his responsibilities as a father. He doesn't want to deal with them because it would include going to see his wife again. And yet, he runs into her anyway because she brings something over to Bobby following his heart attack. She wants to get back together with him. But he's sticking to his convictions because he believes he's finally left a toxic relationship.
  • Things have been romantic between Vincent and Abby this entire season. The tension has always been there. It seems like he is protective of her a little bit. He doesn't want her to get hurt during the big fight. But he also breaks her shoe as a result. And yet, that doesn't keep them from getting together. They have sex on top of the pool table.
  • While in the bathroom, Abby gets to spend more time with Darlene as well. That's a very fascinating dynamic that has begun to flourish over the past few episodes. Abby likes Darlene. They are kindred spirits of sorts who grew up with vastly different opportunities. Abby doesn't know what to do when her shoe gets broken. And Darlene doesn't have any family she wants to see again. Abby giving Darlene a ticket to visit her aunt is bound to come back to hurt the two of them somehow though.
  • Sandra gets swept up in the latest raid of sex workers on the streets. The no-go zone must not have included that area. And yet, she doesn't deal with any of the ramifications of that arrest because Alston is able to tell immediately that she's not selling her body on the streets. Meanwhile, she is hopeful to use his expertise of the landscape in order to understand what's going on here.
  • More time is spent with Paul. It shows what his life is like in this city during the 1970s as a gay man. He likes Vincent as a boss because he's very much okay with anyone who wants to come in and enjoy the bar. But it's also clear that Paul has his own aspirations as well. He wants to own his own bar too - just in a different part of the city.
  • Rudy has a new deal for Vincent as well. He's being very cryptic about the actual details though. That's highly suspicious. It more than likely has something to do with the deal he is working on downtown to completely rework the structure of this neighborhood. Vincent doesn't see the opportunity in this run down building. But if Rudy is successful in his endeavor, it could be a lucrative property to own.